What is it going to take to get Rhode Island back on track and make living here affordable? If you’re counting on the current political establishment for the answers, don’t. In the past few months more dim-witted ideas have surfaced that will actually make matters worse. Here are the top five.
•Number 1: It’s bad enough that the Board of Governors for Higher Education voted to allow illegal immigrants the right to pay in-state tuition for college. Now, in his infinite wisdom, Governor Chafee wants to make it easier from these illegals to be able to drive to school. His brilliant idea is to issue a new illegal immigrant drivers license. That got me thinking. What about those people who would like to become a licensed plumber, electrician, lawyer or even a doctor but won’t follow the rules to prove they are capable of performing tasks specific to that area of expertise? According to the governor, that shouldn’t stop them. In fact wouldn’t allowing everyone the right to obtain any professional license in Rhode Island promote positive job growth?
•Number 2: In her attempt to put an end to the constitutional right to free speech in Warwick, Ward 6 Councilwoman Donna Travis has docketed legislation that would prohibit any person from displaying a sign in city council chambers. Apparently a homemade sign displayed by a citizen at the last meeting offended the councilwoman. It showed a picture of the mayor with puppet strings attached to the councilwoman and five of her colleagues. The good news is that if this legislation is passed, the council can no longer direct the city clerk to hold up signs displaying “One Minute”, “30 Seconds” and “Stop” when the mayor and council wish to limit taxpayer participation at public hearings.
•Number 3: After just about every city and town in the state has eliminated practically all of the $6,000 tax exemption on the value of a motor vehicle, officials are learning that some older cars are being over taxed since the assessed value of the vehicles are much higher than the vehicles are worth. Nevertheless, it took a near revolt in Warwick and Providence for these leaders to realize how flawed the system is. Now these same leaders are calling for legislation to correct the system. Brilliant! Why didn’t they bother to understand how the tax worked before they imposed it? Maybe we should elect leaders willing to balance budgets by cutting spending instead of imposing new taxes to increase revenue.
•Number 4: After attending a few meetings to learn about problems associated with the state pension system, some legislators in the General Assembly have indicated they will make modifications to the General Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s comprehensive pension reform package designed to fix the problem once and for all. Ignoring the fact that the treasurer has spent the last 8 months meeting with experts and analyzing the problems, these legislators, believing they qualify as Phi-Beta-Kappa Society members, don’t seem concerned that making even slight changes to the legislation could cause significant financial problems and ultimately not fix the problem.
•Number 5: Earlier in the year Warwick City Council President Bruce Place announced that government transparency was his top priority. Not concerned with keeping his promise, Councilman Place made hundreds of angry taxpayers wait over two months to finally hold a public hearing on the car tax issue. When citizens finally thought they would have an opportunity to address Mayor Scott Avedisian, Mr. Place rigged the hearing using procedural language and parliamentary maneuvers so that the mayor wouldn’t have to answer questions. Thankfully other council members realized that Mr. Place’s actually disenfranchised taxpayers and continued the public hearing until October 12 adding new language that will allow citizens an opportunity to question the mayor if he decides to stay for the entire meeting this time.
Robert Cushman is a former City Councilman and former School Committee chairman.